WENATCHEE — The Chelan County Commission is looking to extend the short-term rental regulation process and convene a task force with seats representing residents and short-term rental owners.
It has already been more than two years to get to this point and the Chelan County Planning Commission has voted three times on regulation proposals.
Community Development Director Jim Brown told commissioners Monday that he felt there was too much disagreement between residents and short-term rental owners and that current drafts would heavily favor either one group or the other.
The commissioners should convene a task force to look at specific issues, he said.
“My experience has been in very contentious issues that I dealt with in my prior career that frequently you may not come to an absolute consensus, but you can find a path forward,” Brown said.
Brown was the regional director for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife out of Ephrata before he came to Chelan County. He helped mediate several contentious water-right disputes.
The commissioners did not vote on the issue Monday, but were set to meet at 10:30 a.m. today.
Two key questions before commissioners are:
- Should existing short-term rentals be allowed to remain as non-conforming uses?
- Should a lottery system be used to get down to 5% short-term rentals in certain zip codes?
Brown recommended the following for the task force:
Keep it to six or seven people, evenly split with maybe a planning commission representative
- Have them work on specific contentious issues, such as allowing existing short-term rentals to remain as a non-conforming use
- Give them a tight deadline of about three months
One of the complaints from representatives of both the Short Term Rental Alliance of Chelan County and Residents United for Neighbors is that they haven’t been given a seat at the table.
Brown’s proposal would require the commissioners to extend the moratorium, banning any new or expanded short-term rentals, by six months.
Commissioners Bob Bugert and Kevin Overbay sounded interested in the proposal.
Bugert said the group would have to understand that if they failed to come to an agreement, the commissioners would move forward with the draft codes already in hand.
“I want to be clear in my expectations of a final product that there will be very high standards for operations of the short-term rentals and there will be a cap by zip code,” Bugert said. “That is what I will be looking for in the end product.”
Overbay said he can see the purpose of convening a task force and would like to get to a greater consensus. But that he does believe it is time to finish some regulations.
“The one thing that holds true is that no one agrees with the existing code that we have in draft form,” Overbay said.
Commissioner Doug England, who is retiring and will be replaced by Tiffany Gering next week, said he is not in a rush to resolve this issue, but does want to see it finished. He does not want to kick the issue too far down the road. The task force the commission creates must also work within the existing drafts and not start from scratch, he said.
“I would have to disagree that there is an attainable target where everyone is going to agree with the code,” England said. “It won’t happen.”